Scimex: New research from Australian and Singaporean scientists has revealed how immune cell 'spies' are created, providing clues on how the immune system could be manipulated to better fight disease.
cells are intelligence-gathering immune cells, gathering information on
viruses, bacteria, cancer and fungi to aid the immune system in fighting
disease. Understanding how dendritic cells are created will aid
scientists in finding ways to boost the immune response to infections or
dampen it in autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid
Dr Florent Ginhoux, Dr Andreas Schlitzer and colleagues
from the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), a research institute
under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in
Singapore, together with Dr Shalin Naik and Mr Jaring Schreuder from
Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, discovered each subtype of
dendritic cell had its own, unique parent cell. The study was published
today in the journal Nature Immunology.
Dr Naik from the Walter
and Eliza Hall Institute said dendritic cells were the 'James Bond' of
the immune system. "Dendritic cells are the intelligence-gathering cells
that educate the immune system," he said. "They tell the
infection-fighting T cells and NK cells what a virus, bacterium, fungus
or cancer looks like so they know what they're looking for when fighting
"If we learn how to control dendritic cells, we could
strengthen our immune response to infection when needed, or weaken the
action of certain immune cells that attack the body's own tissues in
Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall
Institute have made significant contributions to understanding dendritic
cell biology for more than 40 years. Previous research from the
institute revealed there are different subtypes of dendritic cells, each
primed to recognise certain types of infections. Institute researchers
also uncovered the parents (called progenitors) that produce dendritic
Dr Florent Ginhoux, senior principal investigator at SIgN
and lead scientist of the study, said previous research had examined
thousands of cells at once. "In this study, we used the latest
technologies to examine individual immune cells and their 'daughter'
cells, revealing there isn't one single parent cell for all subtypes of
dendritic cells, but instead a unique progenitor for each individual
Targeting progenitor cells could make treatments more
efficient, Dr Ginhoux said. "One progenitor cell can produce multiple
daughter cells," he said. "Suppressing a progenitor from creating the
subtype of dendritic cells implicated in causing lupus, for example,
could be an efficient way of treating autoimmune diseases while
minimising the impact on the rest of the immune system.
triggering extra production of particular dendritic cells could improve
the immune response to infections or vaccines. This discovery will
enable scientists to find ways of tweaking our immune response with much
greater accuracy and precision than ever before."
blood cell family tree would help to understand what goes wrong when
disease occurs, Dr Naik said. "Every blood and immune cell in our body
descends from blood stem cells," he said.
"We and others have been
following this family tree from one daughter cell to the next to
discover how each cell type is created and how the parent cell 'decides'
if it should make more of itself or create the next cell type. By
dissecting the heritage of these cells, we can find new targets to
tackle a range of conditions including infectious diseases, cancers and
immune disorders, and even make vaccines more effective."
study was funded by the A*STAR's Singapore Immunology Network, A*STAR's
Genomics Institute of Singapore, the Singapore Medical Research Council,
the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the